Tomasz Sakiewicz argued in court that the manipulated photograph depicting Bartosz Kramek as a Wehrmacht soldier which appeared on the cover of ‘Gazeta Polska’ daily was ‘simply funny’. The Appellate Court in Warsaw did not share this view and found the Chair of the Open Dialogue Foundation a victim of stigmatisation and defamation.
Five years after the publication of this defamatory cover story by ‘Gazeta Polska’, Bartosz Kramek, the Chair of the Board of the Open Dialogue Foundation, won the lawsuit against Tomasz Sakiewicz, editor-in-chief, and against Niezależne Wydawnictwo Polskie, publisher of ‘Gazeta Polska’. The Appellate Court in Warsaw upheld the judgment of the court of first instance and ultimately ruled that there has been a violation of personal rights by Sakiewicz. The judgement is final and binding.
In mid-August 2017, ‘Gazeta Polska’ with Bartosz Kramek on its cover hit the newsstands. The face of the Chair of the Open Dialogue Foundation was photomontaged into a photograph of a Werhmacht soldier, and the story was titled: ‘We Know the Plans for the Autumn Coup. New September Campaign’. This is how Sakiewicz’s editorial referred to a Facebook post published by Kramek during the protests in defence of free courts in July 2017 in which Kramek wrote how to stop the Law and Justice party’s attack on the rule of law in Poland relying on the Ukrainian Majdan example.
The litigation was convoluted. The case was heard twice by the Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) in Warsaw and twice by the Appellate Court (Sąd Apelacyjny) in Warsaw. The pro-ruling party media closely followed the turn of events. Sakiewicz was supported by the right-wing Association of Polish Journalists (Stowarzyszenie Dziennikarzy Polskich), which considered Kramek’s action to be an attack on the freedom of speech.
Before the court the head of ‘Gazeta Polska’ said that the cover was satirical by nature. ‘Could this cover have caused any harm? […] This photo in this particular context was simply funny. Of course, a sense of humour can always raise a discussion and this litigation is a proof that the claimant has a problem with it, but it would make any normal person smile’ – argued Sakiewicz before the court.
The Appellate Court of the second instance did not share this line of thought. In the statement of reasons for its judgment, the court asserted that even a satirical nature of the photomontage on the cover of ‘Gazeta Polska’ does not preclude violation of personal rights, and ruled that Bartosz Kramek fell victim to stigmatisation and defamation.
As a result, Sakiewicz was ordered to publish an apology on the pages of ‘Gazeta Polska’, pay PLN 15 000 of punitive damages, pay PLN 10 000 to the Women Rights’ Centre (Centrum Praw Kobiet) and cover the legal costs of the litigation.
Bartosz Kramek told the ‘Wyborcza’ daily: ‘I am, of course, pleased with this verdict, although I believe that the financial penalty should have been much higher. Tomasz Sakiewicz is a recidivist libeller who has been reverting to slander and lies for years for public money. He is a model party functionary pretending to be an free-minded journalist. It would be hard to find a greater mix-up of concepts and greater cynicism’.
The Chair of the Open Dialogue Foundation recalls the dispute that occurred between the head of ‘Gazeta Polska’ and the right-wing blogger Marcin Rey during the litigation. It was extensively reported by the Press in 2020.
On his Facebook page Marcin Rey recounted a conversation with Sakiewicz which took place in March 2020. According to his account, Rey criticised the editor-in-chief for the Kramek cover story and said that Kramek’s German connections were untrue, to which Sakiewicz allegedly replied: ‘Yes, it’s not true, but it sells well’.
After this information was revealed, Sakiewicz announced that he would sue Rey. To date, however, he has not done so.
In June 2021 ‘Gazeta Polska’ lost a lawsuit over a cover on which it had used photographs of migrants with the title: ‘Refugees Brought Deadly Diseases’. The Appellate Court in Gdańsk fully upheld the ruling of the first instance, under which Niezależne Wydawnictwo Polskie, the publisher of ‘Gazeta Polska’, was ordered to pay PLN 20 000 to Polish Humanitarian Action (Polska Akcja Humanitarna) and apologise to the photojournalists for use of their photographs for photomontage. The judgement is final and binding.
A few weeks ago, a lawsuit against Sakiewicz was announced by Donald Tusk who became the protagonist of a Gazeta Polska cover with a similar convention and message to that of Kramek. The leader of the Civic Platform (PO) and a former Polish Prime Minister appeared on the cover disguised as Adolf Hitler, with an adjacent Nazi Germany soldiers’ slogan: ‘Gott mit uns’.
Sakiewicz has proudly boasted about the idea on social media. Civic Platform (PO) spokesman Jan Grabiec responded: ‘We do not consent to public debate in Poland reaching the level of a gutter. Sakiewicz and his ‘Gazeta Polska’ will be held accountable before a court of law for today’s scandalous publication’.
Source: Gazeta Wyborcza